The creases of my body were still damp from the tank, muscles still sluggish from hypersleep. Our foreman read from the roster. Ninety of our mob were grouped by occupation; sensible choices for mankind’s sequel. Of the remaining ten, eight were listed alongside their lifetime achievements. They too were sensible choices.
That left Mike and me. Mike had made coffee in a swank café back on Earth. One of the engineers said he could whip up an espresso machine if a botanist could grow the beans. Everyone agreed Mike belonged. As for me, the foreman checked his list again to make sure there wasn’t some mistake. But there I was, at the very bottom with a blank space by my name. No achievements. No special skills.
We divvied up the food. I overheard the accountant remark to the herdsman that I should have gotten a smaller share. The herdsman nodded quietly, but said nothing. Mike put his arm around me. “Don’t mind them,” he said. “Some qualities can’t be measured.”
By the time my first child was born, Earth II had a basic infrastructure and sufficient comforts for an enjoyable life. Two farmers sustained the whole colony, and taught each household how to grow food to supplement their stocks. The craftsman and the designer supplied clothes and furnishings. The writer and the actor produced plays and songs, which they performed live for a crowd or broadcasted over the small communications network constructed by our three engineers. In the clearing of the botanists’ forest, Mike set up shop. I took orders and waited on tables.
One day, as I served his coffee, the accountant patted my hand and looked me in the eye. “Don’t worry, girly, I know how you feel.” He went on to tell me that the more our cashless society flourished, the more he felt like he didn’t belong.
Mike and I had four children together. He had another seven with other women, and I had another eight with other men. Our mandate was to fill the next generation with as much diversity as we could. Every child in the colony was skilled at something by the time they were nine. They started their own families as soon as their bodies were ready. Girls as young as ten were bringing children of their own to term. It would have been horrifying by old Earth standards, but in this new world, we did what was needed to survive.
Half of our tribe were sent away to start a settlement in the east. Mike died of old age just after our youngest left, and from then on, my life became very quiet. I spent my days making coffee the way he had taught me. I could go for weeks without speaking a word.
Then it happened. When he was thirty, my son by the accountant watched his father succumb to the virus that took Earth. So it had followed us here after all. My granddaughter sat on my lap as I combed her hair; we listened to their final moments from another room. In the years that followed, more from the first fleet fell ill and passed away. Children from our first generation were taken. Then children from the second. Then from the third. The biologists who remained, young and old, raced to find a vaccine, but many of them succumbed too. Our population dwindled.
We received a message from the eastern settlement. The virus had ravaged their populations. Their mission was a failure. They were coming home.
The survivors of their camp reached us as the sun set low over the horizon. We huddled in the chilly evening air and exchanged greetings with warmth and open arms. My heart hung heavy with our losses, but in that fog of sorrow, I couldn’t help but feel a spark of joy at embracing loved ones I thought I’d never see again. My children. Their children.
As I looked through the crowd, I saw in it hints of faces I remembered from our ship all those years ago; the engineers, the botanists, the accountant, my beloved Mike. And so many more. We were one family by proximity and by blood, all carrying the genetic immunity my father planted in me before securing me a place among the fleet. He alone guessed it was only a matter of time before the virus struck again. For my own safety, we told no one. He knew what man was capable of. Yet still, he wanted to give us a chance against the disease. A chance to start over.
So, I was a sensible choice too.